Werner Voss Triple Homage
For a variety of reasons over my life to date, I’ve developed a fascination and, dare I say it, an admiration for Leutnant der Reserve Werner Voss, a contemporary and colleague of the much more famous Baron Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen (MvR) of Red Baron fame. The fortunes of both these WW1 fighter pilots are inextricably linked to the infamous Fokker Triplanes from Anthony Fokker’s design team. Both pilots met their ends flying the Triplane, Voss during an amazing fight against numerous SE5as from the RFC’s 56 Squadron, while MvR fell, arguably, at the hands of ground fire from an Australian machine gunner, seemingly ignoring the tenets of his rules for air combat.
After a discussion with Louis Gardner some time back when he was modelling the Revell 1/28 scale Fokker Triplane to mark the anniversary of Voss’ death on 23 September 1917, we both thought it would be great to have a scale model of Voss standing in front of his Fokker F.1 103/17, as recorded in the much-publicised picture probably seen by many of us. A 1/28 scale maquette of Voss is way beyond my skill set, so I was pleased to discover that the US company Model Cellar had a 1/48 scale model of Voss in their store. A separate 1/32 scale model of the pilot is also now available.
I decided I’d try my hand at prooducing my versions of 3 of the aircraft that Voss is known to have flown during the last year of his life, including the Triplane 103/17. the Pfalz DIII 1370/17 that he flew briefly while in Jasta 10 and the Albatros DIII that has been modelled many times by a variety oof enthusiasts. I avoided the Halberstadt scout that he also flew and the Albatros DV that some say replaced hiis Albatros DIII, simply because I couldn’t find any real definition on these from the viewpoint of their paint finishes and other details.
After transferring to the Luftsteitkrafte in 1915, both Voss and MvR were eventually enrolled as first observers, then pilots with the German bomber units operating on the eastern front against Russia. It seems MvR was not a natural pilot while, for Voss flying seemed more natural. Eventually and at different times, both pilots were transferred to fly scouts with Jasta 2 (Jasta Boelcke after Boelcke’s death). MvR was seemingly chosen by Boelcke during one of his tours to find suitable candidates but Voss didn’t join Jasta 2 until after Boelcke was killed in a mid-air collision with another German pilot. It was while with Jasta 2 that the 2 pilots became colleagues and friends, though many see their relationship as more competetive.
In Jasta 2, both pilots would have cut their professional teeth flying the early Albatros DIIs and Halberstadt scouts, but Voss’ name is inextricably linked to the Albatros DIII that he flew, decorated with wreaths, hearts and swastikas, the latter’s meaning far removed from the Nazi idealogy of the 1930s and 1940s.
Using a weekend Eduard 1/48 kit, I set about depicting my version of one of the Albatros DIIIs that Voss flew with Jasta 2, largely following the learned views of Dan San Abbott as far as the wing colours and patterns were involved. This was also my first experiment with wood grain transfers for the fuselage which ended up reasonably OK (probably better with experience). I also bought several packets of GasPatch turnbuckles, but found my fat fingers, poor eyesight and rigging thread diameter defeated that particular inclination towards fine detail, hence no turnbuckles.
In general, I find Eduard’s overall treatment of most of their model kits to be excellent, but I was disappointed to find that no effort had been made to produce the pipes connecting the wing radiator to and from the Mercedes engine. These pipes are such a visible part of the V-strutter’s nose section that I felt I had to fashion something that looked the part. Fuse wire seemed the most flexible method and I felt quite happy with the end result.
After Boelcke’s death, Jasta 2 came under the command of new commanders, the second of which didn’t fit Voss’ ideal as a unit commander. Making his feelings known outside the chain of command led to Voss being transferred to a succession of different units as their temporary commander. With 23 claims under his belt, Voss was eventually awarded the Pour le Merite (Blue Max) cross in early April 1917, being given the customary one month leave, some of which was spent at home in Krefeld with his family, apparently accompanied for some of that time by his colleague MvR. Shortly after his return from leave, Voss was given command of Jasta 5 where he continued to fly the Albatros DIII in which he brought his claim total to 35 allied aircraft.
During June 1917, Voss was seconded briefly to the Fokker factory at Schwerin to test fly Anthony Fokkers Fokker F.1 prototype triplane, from which the first 2 triplanes (102/17 and 103/17) were developed for combat evaluation with units then commanded by Voss (Jasta 10) and MvR (Jasta 11 and Jagdgeschwader 1).
Voss had been given command of Jasta 10 at the end of July 1917, at which point the unit was just re-eqipping with the new Pfalz scout, the Pfalz DIII, which to me is one of the most graceful designs to emerge from this period of WW 1, whatever its operational shortcomings. Voss was assigned one of the new Pfalz scouts, 1370/17, but apparently found its characteristiics unsuited to his style of flying. It seems he may have flown this particular machine on as few as 4 operational sorties, reverting to use of his Albatros which was faster and had a better rate of climb than the Pfalz, despite the latter being better in a dive due to a stronger lower wing structure.
This is a picture of F1370/17 after being shot down while another Jasta 10 pilot was flying it after Voss’ death.
The Pfalz model has been based on my interpretation (right or wrong) of the picture above, together with a partial profile from one of the early 1970s Profile Publications that I still have in my library. My feeling is that, the markings are unlikely to have changed since Voss took command of Jasta 10, although some observers (including Eduard) feel the stripes either side of the fuselage cross should be black, rather than the unit colour of yellow.
An early and somewhat rare kit from Eduard, the kit is of good standard with the same shortcomings as the later Albatros DIII kit (lack of coolant pipework, as well as lack of fuel lines between the upper wing and fuselage). Once more, I fumbled these into something almost realistic with different types of fuse wire.
Typical of my style of modelling, usually interrupted by frequent other tasks, I finished the Pfalz and put it side by side with the Albatros to show one of my friends overseas. Only then did I notice that I’d used a heavier gauge of rigging thread on the Pfalz which caused much gnashing (excuse the pun) of teeth and no shortage of corrective procedures. The model still looks as graceful as I think it deserves to be.
So, after transffer to Jasta 10 at the end of August 1917, Voss was issued with the famous Fokker F.1 103/17, in which he met his end. Both he and MvR were issued with the first 2 operational prototypes for combat evaluation. Voss found 103/17 suited his flying temperament but MvR, despite early comments about the climb rate, was not entirely enthusiastic about 102/17and preferred to fly his trusted Albatros.
I used the Eduard weekend kit of the Fokker F.1 to produce a version of Voss’ F 103/17 and a nice kit it it, despite not being wholly accurate in terms of the cowling construction, which I had to correct with a strip of styrene and some filler. I used GasPatch Fokker Spandaus instead of the kit ones, just as an experiment. The GasPatch replicas are wonderful replacements but very delicate for someone as clumsy as me. I broke the delicate ring sights and had to replace them with scratch fine brass wire bent to shape – not entirely convincing, but good is good enough sometimes.
So, the final stage. Adding the Model Cellar Voss figure to the Triplane to mirror that well-known photo of Voss in his workaday uniform in front of 103/17. My talents in figure painting are still rudimentary but the model is well cast to allow the skilled to get the face to reproduce Voss’ well-known features.
I hope this post hasn’t caused too much boredom – I can go on a bit when I think I know something on the subject under discussion. Anyway, any comments much appreciated and apologies for pressing the “post comment” button when I just meant to save the changes.
14 additional images. Click to enlarge.